Volunteer Blog: Michael Botha

I was greeted with a warm tropical breeze as I descended from my homely plane and onto the glistening tarmac of Antananarivo airport. The sun, however, was hiding behind the sheltering clouds, whilst the familiar sound of raindrops could be heard hitting the tin roof of the international terminal. Unfortunately, I had brought the Melbourne winter weather with me.

The leisurely ground crew guided us to our shuttle; fitting every passenger inside, which seemed something similar to a Tetris exercise. A few minutes later, we set off and were quickly brought to the arrivals hall. Needless-to-say the airport door was equidistant to the bus as it was to the airplane.

After bypassing the enthusiastic taxi drivers and collecting some local currency on the way, I was met by my hotel’s driver. Between my broken French and his keenly developing English, I was shown around the bustling centre-of-town and delivered to my home for the night. Nestled in the hills of Antananarivo, or as the locals call it “Tana,” I was warmly welcomed by the owner, who speedily presented me with a Malagasy style dinner. On each of the four corners of my tasty plate, rested a different local cuisine. Ox tong, might I add, is a lot tastier that what I would have imagined.

The next morning, I wandered to the top of the hill toward the old Queen’s Palace, and was met by two local tour guides who eagerly showed me around. Unfortunately, the majority of the 19th century building, also known as “Rova”, was burnt down in 1995, however it is slowly being reconstructed to its original state.

I continued my Madagascan journey by flying to the island of Nosy Be. Here, I was energetically met by Frontier staff member Linsey, who had waited patiently as my day-time flight had morphed into a night-time arrival. It was in this instance that I came to understand the frequently murmured Malagasy phrase of ‘mora, mora,” meaning “take it slow”.

My first day on the Nosy Be began with meeting the neighborhood primary school children who were eager to expand on their quickly growing English vocabulary. The focussed lessons were interspersed with sports activities, the only distraction being their excitement of perfecting camera “selfies”.

For the afternoon activity, the group set out to an orphanage on the outskirts of town. Getting there was an experience in itself as the taxi driver attempted to break the record on how many people he could fit in his 1970s vintage Citroen. Thus we were all very well acquainted by the end of our scenic adventure. We were met by immobilized children recovering from leg surgery, who were keenly engaged in television. Leaving them to rest, we ventured to the nearby beach and were lucky to sight dolphins splashing in the waves afar.

In my first two days abroad I have been spoilt by the beauty and culture of Madagascar. From the island’s friendly people to the engaging activities co-ordinated by Frontier, it has been an exhilarating start to a keenly awaited adventure.

By Michael Botha, Teaching Volunteer 

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.


Volunteer Blog: Emma Black

A Day in the Life of a Teaching Volunteer

The day generally starts quite early for the teaching volunteers. We have breakfast either at home or at Oasis in town which does amazing fresh juices  and then plan and prepare for the day ahead of us. As its the summer holidays in Hellville at the moment, the Frontier teaching team are running summer school for the children at the school which starts at 9.30 am.

When we arrive at school its very similar to a normal day of school here, we are surrounded by children shouting 'hello' and wanting high fives and they immediately run towards the classrooms. During the holidays we are going through and reviewing everything they have done over the past year, and expanding all of their vocabulary. For example, this week we are re teaching numbers, days of the weeks and months of the year. After two and a half hours of teaching, we have a lunch break and come back to the community house for pasta or noodles and then we are back to the school for sports in the afternoon.

After school has finished at 4pm we head back to the house for a quick break before going to Youth Club where we teach English at a much higher level to seventeen and eighteen year olds. Youth Club can involve anything from talking about healthcare, conversation exercises about our home countries, games of 'Darling I love you' and sometimes even dancing along to English songs like 'The Cha Cha Slide' and 'Time Warp' which is far more relaxed and enjoyable. The complete range of different things which go on during a day here shows how much of a difference the Community Frontier Volunteers are making in Madagascar, from the four year olds at school in the day, to improving the English of people our own age at Youth Club, developing friendships as well as just being a teacher figure. I also really enjoy seeing how utterly opposite the experiences of those at youth club's are to my own and it is really a learning experience for all of us.

Whilst we do have to spend a lot of time preparing for the next weeks lessons, we do have a couple of hours off a day and a free day on Sunday. This Sunday we were able to travel to a nearby resort where we spent the day on the beach, swimming, sunbathing and reading as well as playing volleyball with some Italian Medical Volunteers and eventually watching the beautiful sunset from the beach. As well as our free Sunday, we spent Thursday evening at Mount Passot, the highest point of the island on a huge viewing platform to watch the sunset which was absolutely breathtaking and one of the defining moments of our time in Madagascar. On Saturday after an early start from camp we also travelled half an hour in a taxi to visit Nosy Be's sacred waterfalls, under which is a deep lagoon we were able to swim in. Despite not always being around the beautiful wildlife surrounding camp, being a teaching volunteer based in Hellville does give you the opportunities to see things others may not be able to, which is a real benefit to the project.  

By Emma Black, Teaching Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

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